2014-04-09 / Features

Brown Seeks $$ To Turn Former Men’s House Into Office Space

By Liz Goff
If Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has it his way, a run-down former jailhouse used as a backdrop by production crews for TV dramas will soon be transformed into a workplace for real life criminal drama.

Queens top prosecutor last week testified at City Council Public Safety Committee budget hearing, where he requested funding to transform the old Men’s House of Detention in Kew Gardens into office space for Queens prosecutors, investigators and other employees who work in a building four blocks from the courthouse.

Brown said conversion of the former jailhouse, located next to his offices at the Queens Criminal Courthouse, would allow him to incorporate all of his staff into one location. The move would save his office approximately $3 million spent annually on the office space, Brown said.

“It makes far more sense, in my judgment, to renovate the Queens House and convert it into office space for my staff, instead of keeping spending $3 million on an office building four blocks from the courthouse,” Brown told the panel.

The Queen District Attorney’s office boasts a staff of more than 600, including assistant district attorneys, paralegals, investigators at the DA;s Squad and clerical workers - nearly half of whom work in the auxiliary office building, Brown said.

The 10-sstory Men’s House of Detention, owned by the city Department of Corrections (DOC,) has been vastly underused since it was shuttered in 2002, law enforcement sources said. The former jail has only been used as a backdrop for the highly rated “Blue Bloods” TV series, along with other network and cable productions, the sources said.

Brown told the City Council panel that moving his staff to one location would not only save the rent paid for the office building. “It would eliminate the dangers of having our staff cross Queens Boulevard to get to work each day,” he said. Queens Boulevard was rated one of the most dangerous highways in Queens in a recent study by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

A spokesperson for Brown said a case study would have to be performed to determine the cost of renovations at the former Men’s House.

The Men’s House of Detention, for years a sore point with residents in Kew Gardens and Briarwood, was known for the antics of inmates who shouted, whistled and tried to make conversation with courthouse visitors who parked in an adjacent lot on 83rd Avenue.

“Some of those guys put on a pretty good show, standing at the windows and talking to people, moaning and begging for help,” law enforcement sources said. “Most people ignored them and chuckled at the way they acted, some were scared by them, and some actually stopped and had conversations with them. It was like getting entertained on your way to court,” the sources said.


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